Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
If you were shooping for a 125 mph-plus in 1969 Australia your choice was fairly limited, either a Big Three "Bathurst Special" or, if money was not a problem, then a Maserati, Ferrari or Lambo could end up in your garage. But there was one other you could add to your shopping list – and that one came from Japan. At introduction, the 240Z was priced at $4567 and many (quite rightly) believed it to be the best value for money then available on the Australian market.
Building street cred with such vehicles as the Honda S800 and Toyota 2000GT, Japan was starting to emerge as a legitimate sports car maker. The challenge for the Japanese was to break into the lucrative US market - and with the competition quickly becoming dated (such vehicles as the Austin Healey 3000, Triumph TR and E-Type Jaguar
) the time was ripe. Enter the 240Z - a car that was to become the best selling sports car of the 70's.
The fact that the 240Z came off the Datsun production line caught many by surprise. Datsun had not always produced winners; the Cedric never exactly set the world on fire and the 1000 coupe, while neat and tidy, was more than a little lacking in things such as headroom, luggage space, etc. But the Nippon manufacturer had learnt the importance of having a hero car in their showroom, particularly in countries where performance equalled prestige, a sure way to improve your brand.
Designed by Albrecht Goertz (who also designed for BMW), the car had muscular lines, a beautiful long bonnet and recessed lights - clearly a copy of the E-Type but was pure and elegant enough to have its own appeal. The smooth and punchy straight six motor produced 151 bhp from a total capacity of 2393cc, delivering this via a 5 speed manual gear box to a strut and wish-bone rear end - all for the same price as the lesser Triumph GT6
In GT terms the 240Z set the pace in a big way. It accelerated from zero to 50 mph in just 7.0 seconds: this compared with other cars of the era such as the TR6 (7.5), Alfa 1600 (9.1), Capri V6 (7.1), and Jaguar 2.8 (8.5). It was not the neck-snapping acceleration which you find with the XY GTHO, Torana XU-1, or big Pacer, but it was still acceleration with street cred. Although obviously aimed at the performance market the 240Z was not merely a hot engine slotted into a lightweight body – well actually that is exactly what it was ... but that body was something else, arguably one of the best looks then going, and for our money way better than most Italian supercar tin then available.
Sleek, smooth and stylish the 240Z had more than a sneaking resemblance to the opulent Toyota 2000GT
- and interior comforts were very much in the big league. The seats were firmly, but generously upholstered, they gave maximum support - and all in the right places. Fore and aft movement was generous and the backs could be adjusted for rake; headrests were ideally placed and side support was good. And in contrast to many cars of the era, the driver was able to reach all controls even when "long-arming" it through a corner. The steering column had levers on each side to control screen wipers/washers, headlights and turn indicators; the tacho (calibrated to 8000 rpm) flanked the optimistically calibrated 160 mph speedo in a cluster directly ahead of the driver while in the centre of the fascia panel were a further cluster of gauges (inclined towards the driver).
Interior trim was black, the floor was carpeted and door handles, window winders, etc., were designed with a strict eye for safety. An honest two-seater only, the 240Z reserved space behind the seats for luggage which could be reached via the wide opening rear window. The flow-through ventilation was best described as adequate. There was a huge glass area – and any ventilation system had its work cut out in the Australian sun. Wind noise at speeds of up to 100 mph was negligible and all-round body sealing was excellent.
The ride of the 240Z was exceptionally comfortable for a car of this type, and it was the handling that ensured the Z could keep up with almost anything else on the road. Strangely, especially for a rack and pinion setup, the steering was not all that precise, and had a tendency towards the wanders and grew worse as speed increased - however these problems were quickly sorted by further tuning when the cars reached Australia. The Z was fitted with a sweet, well spaced five-speed gearbox, but if did suffer from a vague gearshift action. The headlights were a design feature, and were adequate for speeds to around 70 mph – but there was no way they were up to the task given the Z’s 130 mph potential – those involved in motorsport soon included supplementary quartz iodine units.
Stopping the Z were power assisted 10.7-inch discs up front and finned 9-inch at the rear. These were well up to the car's capabilities, and pedal pressures were light and better still, they were not prone to fade. On the open road, and provided you didn’t sink the boot too much, consumption of 22 to 28 mpg was possible – which compared favourably to the 10 mpg you would get in a GTHO. At $4567 the Datsun was almost a bargain - and in bang-for-your-buck terms tnothing could touch it. Not surprising then that over 150,000 were sold before the 260Z
took over in 1975
, where the vehicle lost some of its true sports car appeal as a concession to automatic transmissions
and longer larger wheel bases.